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May 14, 09

"Nach Bach"

Here's the second of 2 videos, featuring a new piece by Gary Schocker called "Nach Bach", based loosely on the J.S. Bach Sonata in A minor performed in the previous video. Sorry for the plain jane single angle shot, i accidentally forgot to turn on the 2nd camera before playing! Thank goodness this camera at least had the XLR microphone input...



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Gary Schocker plays Bach

Gary has been abundantly patient with me, waiting since February for this video to get edited and posted! This is actually the first of two videos, both performances being related to this Sonata in A minor by Bach for flute and keyboard:



Enjoy!

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December 11, 08

New Christmas CD with Piano4!

Just when you thought the Grinch had sacked Wall Street and Detroit to ruin Christmas for everyone, the amazing Piano4 Piano Quartet - and by that, i mean Four PIANOS - comes to the rescue with a brand new Christmas Album! Here's their description of the goodies in this musical stocking:

PIANO4 Christmas features the entire “Nutcracker Suite,” a stunning unusual “Silent Night” (“Christmas Vision”), “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” as you’ve never heard it before, and more! Imagine - 4 virtuoso pianists at 4 grand pianos; 4 distinct parts with swirling finger work, passion and humor.
There are two bonus tracks which are a part of a fabulous new collaboration: Walter "Bunny" Sigler, the Grammy Award winning recording artist - a legend in his own time - with hits including Patti Labelle's "Somebody Loves You Baby" and The O'Jays' "Love Train", is celebrating the season with PIANO4. These two songs, "Christmas Dream" and "Holy Night", have hit the airwaves and are being heard across the country!


These guys are really terrific, and the sounds they produce as an ensemble simply must be heard to be believed! Be sure to visit Piano4's website at www.piano4.org to place your order!

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March 24, 08

Serendipity

The body is shoddy and the brain is drained, but what other word can describe the amazing experiences over the past several weeks than "serendipitous"?  Shooting video with my new semi-pro Canon GL2 camcorder featuring clarinetist Jose Franch-Ballester at the Cunningham Piano Factory, sitting on stage at Carnegie Hall with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Maestro Charles Dutoit, discovering Japanese culinary delights in Manhattan with my violin friend Paul Roby, getting invited to write an article for "Piano Magazine" in the U.K., flying out to Cleveland and recording an amazing CD with Gary Schocker in only 2 days, and to top it all off - running into an old friend after almost 15 years, purely by chance at the Philadelphia airport!  There hasn't been any time to really catch my breath, but the ride is exhilarating and the roses are smelling sweet, even if they do tend to fly by at 90 miles an hour!

Life is rich and full - i just wish i was better at finding time to actually blog about it!

(A quick note:  i'm using the new Windows Live Writer to put this blog article together.  Like the nifty "polaroid picture" plugin?)

Jeff Khaner had a good laugh as he mimicked the changes in my seating posture on stage at Verizon Hall with the Philadelphia Orchestra - from edge-of-my-seat rigid with terror, to semi-alert middle position, to a final full-back recline complete with "been-there-done-that" yawn...yeah, yeah, so i'm finally getting the "hang" of orchestra life, har har har!  It's still great fun, and the terror never completely goes away...not yet, at least.  Carnegie Hall was definitely a thrill, and hey - i even got my taxes done on the bus ride there!

Paul Roby, Associate Principal violinist with the Orchestra and a Curtis school buddy of mine, took me out to the most amazing Donkatsu shop for dinner a few blocks away from Carnegie, called "Katsu-hama".  I'm not a big donkatsu fan, since 99% of the time they're pretty poorly prepared in restaurants, but this was a revelation: melt-in-your-mouth pork tenderloin in the most amazing breaded coating fried to perfection, coupled with a sauce that never overpowered the base flavors.  Heavenly!

Afterwards, we walked through Rockerfeller square and ducked into a specialty Japanese confectionary shop, where Paul picked out a box of sweet bean cakes for me and my family.  Again, not a big fan of bean desserts, but this was simply unbelievable!!  The kids inhaled the entire box within microseconds, and i had to dive in to snatch a single cake for myself.  i simply MUST find a way to get back to that shop!!

Here's a quick little souvenir video showing me gawking and fawning over Carnegie Hall - then complaining about how small the hall actually is when trying to fit an entire orchestra on stage!

After finishing the "Masochistic Mandarin" and "Planets" set with the Orchestra, i flew out to Cleveland to record an album with composer/flutist Gary Schocker.  Normally, classical CD's take a full 3 days to record, but things went so well that we actually flew through this project in only 2 days!  Many thanks to the superb production team of Azica records - Alan Bise, producer and Bruce the engineer par excellence -

Alan and Bruce use the same audio software that Da-Hong uses:  Sequoia.  Check out the nifty hard-case setup they have!  Gateway monitor and USB keyboard here...

...linked to a dedicated hard drive/CPU custom-built to interface directly with the Sequoia software.  Sweet!

Repertoire for the album included the Morceau by Faure, sonatas by Poulence and HIndemith, the Reverie and Valse by Caplet, and 2 works by Gary himself - "For Dad", and "Two Flutes on the Loose in Fujian".  Katherine Vogel joined us for the 2 flute piece - she hails as the principal flutist from the South Dakota symphony, and did a superb job!

We stayed at a funky hotel called the Alcazar, built in the 1920's heavily influenced by Spanish architecture and made famous by Cole Porter having written a famous song there.

 

Well folks, it's getting mighty late and the thinker is already heading to la-la land...but let me finish today's recap post with a picture from my serendipitous rendezvous with my old friend Anton Miller, a violinist who i hadn't seen in almost 15 years - we worked together at the old Point Counterpoint summer music camp, then subsequently at the now defunct New Arts Festival in Ft. Myers, Florida for several summers.  It's unbelievable how some people just never age!!  And, wow...what are the odds of running into an old friend like this when traveling on standby flights?



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January 09, 08

A Concerto for the Coolest Cats in Classical Music

There are some days that i come home and think that i have the best job in the world. Yesterday was definitely one of those days, after spending time rehearsing a brand new concerto written by Jennifer Higdon for that uber-hip ensemble "Time for Three" and the Philadelphia Orchestra under Maestro Christoph Eschenbach!

Group picture for everyone putting together "Concerto 4-3" by Jennifer Higdon

Bluegrass, rock, classical Americana, combined with special effects from the T43 band galore (bow scrubbing, bass thumping, string slapping, wacky-wild slides...) - Jennifer has really put together a knockout piece that grooves so perfectly with T43's unique sound and musical approach!

These guys really take their rehearsal seriously...

What it looks like to lose yourself in a great piece

Gentle guidance from the composer herself

This was a rarity for me: playing a conductor rehearsal in Verizon Hall itself, rather than in the Maestro's studio. What fun to rip into the piano reduction at full volume!

Nick, Zach, and Ranaan embody an exciting new vision for classically-trained musicians - bold initiative, fearless creativity, rip-roaring fun, mutual respect for each other, an infectious connection with fans and colleagues, all that topped together with artistry of the highest caliber. The future of art music is in awesome hands with these three superstars!

An artsy shot with Zach over Ranaan's bass

Ranaan deserves to look heroic; Jennifer's piece pulls out all the stops with regard to everything you can do with a double bass!

Nick woodshedding onstage at Verizon Hall

I don't know about you, but i guess being a former archer made me fall in love with Ranaan's bow quiver/holster thingy:

Ranaan's cool bow quiver holster thingy

T43 with Jennifer Higdon and Maestro Eschenbach

Go guys, go! This is sure to bring the house down, again and again!

T43 with the Maestro

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November 12, 07

Tablet PC sighting From the Top

Well, whattaya know! i was sitting in my hotel room at Skidmore College the other day channel surfing when i came across the TV version of NPR's "From the Top", the PBS show featuring Classical Music kids and hosted by pianist Christopher O'Riley. I had heard the show on the radio a number of times, but never realized that there was a televised version, taped in front of a live audience at Carnegie Hall. So anyways, i'm watching the show and noticing that the music on Christopher's piano is awfully thin...and bright...and there's a funny cable snaking under the piano...



Whoa! Looks like Christopher is using a Toshiba convertible Tablet PC (my best guess, given the color scheme and button layout) with the screen flipped around - note the double-page layout in portrait mode, allowing him to see two pages at a time instead of the single-page portrait mode that i use with my Fujitsu slate model. I'm curious about the pedal system he's using to turn the pages - i'll see if i can email him about that. Anywho, the Tablet PC is certainly much more aesthetically pleasing for the camera than having to flip pages by yourself (as you can see one of the young pianists doing in the above video) or having a huge wall of paper scores as in this other video of Christopher playing Elliott Smith:



Ah! i just did a bit of research on Christopher's site and found from his 'comments' page that he is using a Gateway Tablet PC with the eStand music reader software and its accompanying footpedal.

Now how cool is that?

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November 01, 07

In the mix with the Classical Symphony of Philadelphia

This week has been full of rehearsals with the Philadelphia Classical Symphony, billed as "Philadelphia's other great orchestra" and helmed by Karl Middleman.

Here are some pictures from our rehearsals at the Settlement Music School, Mary Louise Curtis (South Philadelphia) branch:

The renovated PNC Bank/Presser Hall is so much nicer now!
Karl Middleman and the Philadelphia Classical Symphony players

The ever ebullient Maestro Karl Middleman
The ever ebullient Maestro Karl Middleman

Concertmistress Hirono Oka
working together with Concertmistress Hirono Oka

Trumpet soloist Darin Kelly
Trumpet soloist Darin Kelly


PCS, which originated as a Mozart Orchestra, then as a period instrument ensemble, now has evolved to its current permutation as a nimble organization with a cutting-edge sense of programming and audience outreach. A terrific concert is being planned for tomorrow evening (Friday, Nov. 2) 8 pm at the Trinity Center for Urban Life, 22nd and Spruce Streets:

Soloists Julianne Baird, soprano, and Darin Kelley, trumpet


Hugo Wolf – Italian Serenade
André Jolivet – Concertino for Trumpet, Piano & Strings
Roger Quilter – To Julia
Alessandro Scarlatti – Cantata for Soprano, Trumpet and Strings - Su le Sponde del Tebro
Igor Stravinsky – Concerto in D


I'll be busy with the Jolivet, that's for sure - tons of fiendish notes in that one! Believe it or not, i've actually worked on the piano reduction (HAH! more like "augmentation" compared to the original piano-only parts!) with trumpeters for several years, but i've never played it in the full setting with strings.

The Quilter is a gorgeous set of "Hallmark-moment" love songs - lovely writing, really!

For the Scarlatti, i'm bringing in my Roland RD-700SX and Muse Receptor embedded with a Harpsichord preset by Pianoteq modeled after a reproduction of an instrument by François Etienne Blanchet, "Château de Thoiry" (1733).

My virtual Blanchet Harpsichord, thanks to Pianoteq and Muse Receptor

This will be my first time playing in the Trinity Center space, which originally serves as an Episcopal church. This is a view of the building from across 22nd street:
Trinity Center for Urban Life as viewed from 22nd Street

...and another view from the Spruce Street side, this being the main entrance:
The Trinity Center from Spruce Street

Astral Artistic Services uses this venue frequently to feature their roster of artists. The acoustics are marvelous for classical performances!

Here are some pictures from our rehearsal earlier today:
The PCS rehearsing at the Trinity Center

PCS rehearsal from the players' point of view

I couldn't resist trying to get a shot of the beautiful stained glass windows!

Hope to see lots of you at the performance tomorrow night - it promises to be a terrific one!

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October 31, 07

Video Votes

A new video distribution site called Flix55 is soliciting clips for inclusion for some possible TV airtime, based on the number of votes received. Apparently, there are even cash incentives for folks who manage to get their favorite clips nominated (not quite sure how that works yet, besides the "incentive" part - something to do with adding friends as "cash buddies" who are supposed to help promote your video). Sounds somewhat dubious, but i guess that's one way to quickly market a new video site. In any case, someone from Flix55 recently asked if i would upload my video interview with Classical Accordionist Lidia Kaminska, which has been getting a lot of viewership on YouTube lately.

Here's the video - if you feel moved to (possibly) help promote Classical Musicians on Internet video sites and possibly TV, please cast your votes by pressing the "play" button!



**NOTE: it appears that there's no way to vote or rate the video from the embedded file. To do so, i think you have to view the video directly from the Flix55 website. Again, if you feel so-moved (and i hope you do!), click on this URL to jump to the Flix55 page with my clip and rate accordingly.

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Gramophone Review for "Romantic Flute" CD with Jeff Khaner

Check this out! Jeff just sent me this review from the November issue of Gramophone as an image file - not bad, eh?



I can't find the CD on Amazon yet, but i've seen it listed on a UK online retailer called Crotchet Classic Value. I'll be sure to post a note when it's available state-side.

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October 17, 07

I oughtta be in pictures...

Now THIS was a real head-spinner -

http://movies.nytimes.com/person/533950/Hugh-Sung



What in the world was my name doing on a NY Times movie review page??

Upon further investigation (ie, clicking the link) it turns out that i make a cameo (i assume) in a film called, "Aaron Rosand: Celebrating a Life in Music". I write "assume" because for some reason i can't open the link properly in my browser. Anyone catch the preview of the film? How does my hair look? Does my leg keep jumping around too much? Is my tie on straight?

LOL - somehow i don't think the Paparazzi will be hounding me on the PATCO high speed line anytime soon...congratulations to my esteemed colleague Aaron Rosand on the release of this new film!


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October 16, 07

Daily Inspiration for the Practice Room

If you haven't seen this yet, then you really must spend some time over at Dr. Chris Foley's Collaborative Piano blog and his excellent new series of articles titled "31 Days to Better Practicing". Dr. Foley is a master pedagogue with the gift of breaking down materials into bite-sized components, and this series is no exception. Reading through the suggestions ranging from setting a regular practice schedule and warmup exercise ideas, to establishing short, medium and long-term practical goals for your music is sure to inspire you to more constructive and artistically infused practice sessions (and let's face it - at some level EVERYONE hates to practice, especially yours truly!)

Some of my personal favorites (so far) from the series-in-progress include:

  • Practice Links - A nice collection of tips, tricks and articles from several authors with topics ranging from 'why we need to practice scales' to '5 quick and easy memory tricks', among others.


  • More Practice Links" - Chris has collected a number of great essays and articles on practicing from various online resources here. Be sure to check out his link for finding interesting piano repertoire via Pianopedia!


  • 5 Things to Remember About Fingerings - effective fingering strategies is a personal passion of mine, and Chris does a great job of outlining the reasons for taking this step seriously right from the beginning.



  • Keep up the great work, Chris! A definite "must-read" for musicians at every level!


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    October 13, 07

    Running with David Toub on Amie Street

    i'm not a professional runner by any wild stretch of the imagination, but at least i've come to the point where i can actually enjoy my runs, particularly when i have great music to inspire me into that peculiar frame of mind that i can only describe as "the zone". i suppose this is the point where runners' endorphins kick in to produce that special "high" that makes you feel like you're flying over the road. i've always had a particular affinity for electronica for my runs, music that provides a steady accompaniment to the breathing and heartbeat rhythms as my body struggles to overcome the first mile of sluggishness and my mind gradually stops fussing about how i feel and settles itself into the delicious zen of the pavement.

    With that in mind, i'm getting inspired to crank my MP3 runs up to the next level by adding tracks from post-minimalist composer David Toub. Close to a year ago (November 2006) i performed one of David's works - "objects" - as part of Sequenza 21's first ever live recital for contemporary art music. The original MIDI rendition of "objects" is now available on Amie Street, a terrific work for marimba, piano, and electronic organ - the hypnotic sonic blend would make for a perfect running companion!



    Be sure to check out David's other Amie Street offerings, including some fascinating minimalist meditations for solo organ:



    Minimalism, to me, is a bit like those old stereoscopic posters, where you let your mind's eye drift over the collage of patterns until a three-dimensional picture gradually emerges into view. Perfect for running music, i'd say - see you on the street, David!

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    Classical Music selections on Amie Street

    While Amie Street is carving out a terrific niche for independent and alternative rock bands, i wanted to draw some attention to some of the Classical Music selections i found notable as a way of both introduction to new Amie Street listeners and as encouragement to my Classical Music colleagues to consider contributing more tracks to this fledgling new distribution website.

    (Ok, i'm afraid that embedding these player files from AmieStreet.com might "break" those of you viewing this site with Microsoft's Internet Explorer, so hopefully y'all will just defect over to Mozilla's Firefox Web Browser en masse!)

    Here's a little summary of some of the worthwhile Classical Music tracks that can be had for almost nothing on Amie Street:

    The Ingrooves Symphony Orchestra has a pleasant selection of albums for folks new to classical music. You can't go wrong with building a nice, inexpensive beginner library of Easter, Christmas, and miscellaneous selections for orchestra and solo piano with the albums below:

  • Beethoven for Beginners




  • Birds and Flowers




  • Easter Spectacular (though i think their "Messiah" selections are waaaay too slow and pedantic...)





  • A Classical Christmas - very staid interpretations of traditional hymns and choruses for the Christmas holiday season




  • I enjoy interesting transcriptions of all kinds - here's something that works pretty well, i think:

  • Bill Furner - guitar improvisation with synthesized orchestra background based on Chopin Nocturne No. 2




  • i've got to learn more about composer Kobi Arad (i suspect he's also a pianist, given the high level of pianism chops in these recordings) - he's got an incredibly eclectic mix of hip hop, lounge, jazz, classical and contemporary classical compositions compiled over several albums. Really remarkable stuff here, if i may say so!

  • Experimental works for Orchestra and voice, string quartet, piano and tape by Kobi Arad




  • Lush romantic and jazzy tracks featuring piano and string quintet by Kobi Arad - album titled "Ancient Novice"




  • Some inventive "re-compositions" by Kobi Arad - this one of Messiaen's "Les Corps Glorieux":




  • ...and this one of Anton Webern's "Immer Schmerz":




  • My good friend Charles Griffin has several albums of his works up. Of note:

  • Vernacular Dances and other Chamber works (i set his Vernacular Dances to visualizations for my Visual Recital). Be sure to check out the last track "The Persistence of Past Chemistries", a neat percussion chamber work!




  • From the Faraway Nearby: Homage to Georgia O' Keefe - Walter Cosand and i premiered the 2 piano version of this work (listen here and here), but this is the original setting for 2 guitars. Beautiful and haunting renditions wonderfully performed.




  • Feel free to drop me a note if you post anything up on Amie Street and i'll do my best to give your material a listen and a review!


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    October 05, 07

    Seeds Sown, Musical Fruit

    Charles Griffen just sent me a link to a wonderful blog article by a retired software engineer who set out to learn some new, unrecorded piano music. He came across my own article about Charlie written about a year ago, then set out to learn one of his pieces titled Murmuring in Comala. The article does a wonderful job talking about the genesis of the composition as well as its musical references to its source material, the novel Pedro Páramo (1955) by Mexican author Juan Rulfo.


    Every time i perform Charlie's music i get rave reviews, and quite often a slew of questions as to how to get more of his music. His art really speaks for itself - it's just neat that once in a while, i get to play a small role as delegate to a new audience! Kudos, Charlie!


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    July 19, 07

    MMT #36 - Interview with Gary Schocker

    Last week i had the opportunity to work with Gary Schocker at his Flute Seminar in Poughskeepie, NY. Gary Schocker is one of those fascinating artists that seem to live several lives concurrently. A world-renowned flutist, a remarkable pianist, and a prolific composer, Gary's artistic career is as unique as his mirepoix of talents. Gary is the most published living composer of literature for the flute.

    The interview runs about 31:25 in length and is presented as an MP3 file.

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    Welcome!

    Thank you for visiting this site! I hope you'll find this to be a friendly place to learn about and discuss the fascinating technologies available for the Classical Musician. A great place to get started is with the ongoing "Getting Started" series. Remember, the worst questions are the ones you never ask, so feel free to email me!

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